Screeching sneakers, buzzer-beaters and blocked shots are on their way back to the Lifetime Activities Center (LAC) at SLCC’s Taylorsville Redwood Campus. Women’s head basketball coach Betsy Specketer and her Lady Bruins look to continue their winning ways of seasons past, and are hard at work preparing for the 2010-11 year on the hardwood.
“The kids have come back in pretty decent shape, and they’re working really hard to get into even better shape,” said Specketer, who is in her 16 year of coaching at SLCC. “I’ve been really happy with their work ethic—I’m really pleased so far.”
With academic and athletic standards to uphold, pressure to win and pressure from within, playing basketball at the NJCAA level is no small commitment. The girls of SLCC basketball pay their dues—whether in the gym, weight room or classroom.
“We put in about five or six hours a day on basketball,” said Lady Bruins forward Alli Blake, who is in her second season at SLCC. “Honestly, it’s a mindset the whole day, and I know it’s bad to say but even when I’m in class, I’m thinking about basketball.”
The Lady Bruins have a bit of extra motivation to work hard this off-season, having lost to North Idaho College (NIC) in last season’s regional championship game. The Lady Bruins were the top seed in the regional tournament and despite SLCC’s 25-6 record last season, Specketer wants more this time around.
“We won the conference last year, which is a nice accomplishment—it’s a goal, but it doesn’t get you more than a trophy,” said Specketer. “What we really want is to get to the national tournament.”
For the year ahead, the Lady Bruins are bringing back three key players from last season’s squad. With Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) first team All-American Haley Holmstead returning for SLCC, along with talented forwards Alli Blake and Jami Mokofesi, Specketer’s coaching staff has some solid cornerstones to build the team around.
“We have a lot of talent–being physical and talented will definitely take us a long way this year,” said Holmstead, who averaged 21.4 points per game last season, and finished with 663 points scored on the year.
While the team is participating in regular workouts, the official start of team practice isn’t until Oct. 4. The first time fans can see the Lady Bruins in action will be in their pre-season “Jamboree,” where they’ll get their final tune-ups made before hitting the road from Nov. 4-6 for the Southern Utah University (SUU) Tournament.
“We’re really young, so the majority of those kids out there are freshmen,” said Specketer. “They’re kind of learning first of all what it takes to be a college student, and second of all what it takes to be a college student-athlete.”
Specketer feels that returning players like Holmstead, Blake and Mokofesi will give this SLCC women’s team the leadership nucleus necessary for success. The three sophomores demonstrate their awareness of their newfound role as leaders in the locker room.
“I think this year I need to focus on being more of a leader than I was last year,” said Blake, who led the Lady Bruins in total rebounding with 193grabs last year. “Since there are so many freshmen on the team, I think they’ll need that direction.”
As far as leadership goes, this Lady Bruins team needs to look no further than its own bench. Basketball experience is plentiful on this SLCC coaching staff, with well over 30 plus combined years of coaching women’s basketball behind them. Specketer’s assistant coaches are Shelley Jerrard and a young lady lovingly referred to as Shorty.
“Shelley played at Vanderbilt, and spent 12 years at Utah and three years at Kansas State—she’s a really good get. She’s an excellent, excellent, excellent player, teacher and coach,” said Specketer. “Shorty played here for two years as a point guard when we went to the national tournament. She went on to play Division I basketball at Louisiana Tech.”
With a talented coaching staff on the bench and proven talent out on the floor, the Lady Bruins should have all the necessary weapons in place to put on a great show for SLCC fans this season.
“The turnout is usually good, but we’d definitely like to have more fans out to our games,” said Blake, who was second on the team in scoring last season with 11 points per game. Holmstead agrees with Blake’s sentiment, and feels that at home games, “the louder it is, the better.”
Attendance to Lady Bruins basketball games at the LAC is free with a student ID, and almost free for everyone else. After the SLCC Jamboree, it will be nearly a month before the Bruin girls will play on their home floor again. They’ll be traveling to the SUU tournament and then on to Snow College from Nov. 12-13 for another tourney. The SLCC Tournament dates are Nov. 26-27.
With the new season approaching, the Lady Bruins are definitely motivated. “Honestly, I’m just competitive, and when someone pushes me I want to just get ’em back on the other end,” said Blake. “If they school me, I wanna go back and school them—you just have to have the mindset that you’re gonna score, steal, rebound or whatever it is you need to do.”
Holmstead attributes her on-court success to her work ethic. “Waking up every day knowing that someone’s out there working just as hard as I am motivates me, and at the end of the day I tell myself that no one’s worked harder than I have.”
Regular season team practice doesn’t begin until Oct. 4, so the Bruins have time to get their freshmen ready for battle, and as with almost any sport, nothing is decided on the first day of competition.
“It will take time to see this team’s true strengths,” said Specketer, who started out as an assistant coach at SLCC, but was able to move up to head coach after only two seasons. “This team has a little ways to go in figuring out what it takes to get to the national tournament, but that’s going to be our goal again come March.”
More information about SLCC women’s basketball including schedules, stats, rosters and more is available at slccbruins.com.